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“Fallout!”: A Tale of Two Friends

Please take a moment to read through John 17:6-23. See how these words are nested within an incredible benediction:

And please have a look at this as well:

Have you ever been “UnFriended?” Like, on Facebook? It’s happened to me. Only once, granted… but still, it’s happened. Ever been in a place of greatest trial in your life, say… where symptoms have appeared of some dreadful disease, but tests have not yet begun, and all there is is that raw terror of mental and physical decline? Imagine being in the darkest hour of your existence, trusting only the smallest handful of friends with the transparency of your anguish in this moment… and having one of them turn their back, call you names, accuse you of some horrendous sin you cannot even comprehend, let alone commit. Imagine having one you have served, always treated as sacred, trusted as “treasured friend”… utterly turn on you and abandon you… not even willing to stand where you stand, even upon your death. Imagine such a thing.

How do you deal with that?

Well, there’s a “wrong” way, and a “right” way.

The wrong way is to yield to all the temptation that says, “Well, they simply lied for all that time. They never esteemed or treasured me or my friendship. They are not worth my time or trouble. If they cannot stand alongside me in my need, in this darkness, in this trial… then who needs such “fair weather friends”. They want to “UnFriend” me? Fine, then! Forget about it! I don’t need their shadow to darken the door of my Temple ever again! They lied before, they could lie now or at any time. They have betrayed my trust, and never again will I risk that!”

The “wrong way” is to declare the sacred relationship “dead”, rend one’s clothes, knock the dust from one’s shoes, turn them over to God… and let Him sort them out without any further love on our part.

Jesus taught against this in no uncertain terms, both as to “forgiveness” and “kindness even to enemies”, and as to “if you remember your brother holds something against you”. Jesus EVER moves towards reconciliation and restoration of sacred relationships! ALWAYS!

But HOW? How does He do that? How do WE do that, in Him?

Well, let’s take a brief look at: “A Tale of Two Betraying Friends”

Of course, we speak of comparing Judas Iscariot and Simon Peter. I’ve always been struck by the comparisons and contrasts of these two crucial characters of the Gospel drama. I’ve written about this before… but never with the personal application we are looking at here. There is pivotal application here to my own life, and perhaps, Gentle Reader, to yours as well.

It astonishes me to realize that Judas did not betray Jesus until AFTER: Jesus had eaten the Passover meal with him, washed his feet, spoken of the end of things… even called them “friends”.

Hold right there a moment… Judas Iscariot is among the disciple group, when Jesus declares that, because He has revealed the fullness of the Father’s love to all of them, they are now “friend” to Him, no longer merely subordinate “disciples”. Jesus has now utterly “revealed Himself” transparently, to the entire group.

But then, Jesus is again troubled by a bout of distress. He sits at the table, and anguish overtakes Him as He tells them He will be betrayed. Various disciples ask if it is they… Imagine that! Imagine “not knowing” if we would, ourselves, betray Jesus to death? “Is it I?”… Then Jesus hands the sop to Judas, and instructs that he do what must be done quickly, and Judas exits. Jesus then shares the Bread and the Cup, they all exit to the Garden, Jesus reveals that all will abandon Him before the end, and Peter vehemently denies the very possibility.

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And so the stage is set…

Two “friends”…

Two friends who betray, and abandon, Him…

Two relationships with Him, sundered denial and abnegation…

Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss and receives his payment. Peter denies even knowing Jesus with vehement curses, then abandons Him to His fate with bitter tears. Both sin, both deny, both betray, and… eventually… both know remorse for their deeds. Another post, from another time, looks at how these two (Judas and Peter) dealt differently with their remorse. “Gone Fishin'”

But now, let’s look at this from Jesus’ side of the relationship. Informed by all we know as Christians, all we learn from the Gospels and from Jesus’ teaching and requirements of us, all we experience at the prompting of the Holy Spirit within… let us look at how, if we are obedient to love as Jesus loves, how we are to deal with someone who betrays, lies about, or abandons US!

How did Jesus “get back” at Judas? How did He “discipline” him? How did He “church” him? How did He “cast Judas out?”

Sobering, isn’t it? Knowing what He knew, Jesus did nothing but continually bless Judas. He never “threw him out”, or did other than warn him of the consequences of his decisions. I’ve often thought Judas was still capable of derailing the entire Crucifixion thing right up to the point where he utterly resolved and decided to “do it”. At THAT moment, receiving a morsel from the very hand of Jesus, he gives the will wholly up to the evil of betraying Jesus, Judas “opens the door of his heart and stands fully aside” for the moment John narrates as “Satan entered into him”.

The last words Jesus speaks to Judas are simply, “What you must do, do quickly.”

As discussed in the earlier post, Judas eventually experiences remorse, but tries to make things right on his own, without ever daring to face the disciples or Jesus Resurrected. Nothing he tries works, and Judas dies by his own hand.

Now let us consider how Jesus deals with His betrayal and abandonment by Peter.

Again, Jesus does nothing but deal “normally” with Peter after telling Him of his coming betrayal. Jesus teaches him, blesses him, shares bread and cup with him, brings him to the Garden and asks him to stand watch, rebukes him for his sleep, and ultimately rebukes him for injuring Malchus with that sword as He heals the injured man. No further words pass between them until Peter’s betrayal and abandonment in the courtyard of Pilate.

Now… here’s the really hard lesson here.

Peter denies Jesus. Peter curses in the vehemence of his denial. Peter abandons Jesus.

How does Jesus “react” to all this?

Jesus makes NO CHANGE in their relationship and friendship.

It’s that simple. Peter runs to the tomb at the report of the women of the Resurrection. He sees nothing, as don’t any of the other men.

Jesus enters the room and speaks to the disciples as a group, including Peter, though they exchange no private or personal words. Jesus appears at various times, Peter experiences these apparitions.

As to the appearance of Jesus on the beach cooking breakfast, when from the boat John recognizes that the man is Jesus and Peter jumps out of the boat half dressed (stripped down for fishing) and wades to shore…

Who can imagine what words were on the tip of Peter’s tongue as he fought the lapping surf for a “private word” with the Lord? But none of it came out… no apology, no self flagellation, no confession, no worthless worm, no contrition… nothing came out.

Jesus did not rebuke, correct, accuse, or even make reference to the event. Jesus met Peter’s need for “refocus”, “repurposing”, by simply asking three times if he loved Him, and instructing Him to perform the task he was appointed to for the rest of his life. To feed and tend Jesus sheep and lambs.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Bottom line? Jesus treated Peter just as He always had. Jesus treated Peter just as He treated all other Disciple/Friends. He appeared, He spoke, He loved, He touched, He fed, and ultimately He sent the Holy Spirit to penetrate and enter into to Peter, just as all the others.

In other words, Jesus did exactly as He commands us to do… bless, love, do good, and embrace ALL… whether they love us or hate us. No difference. Forgive, from the heart, not because of anything the “other” the “forgiven” bring to the moment, but simply because so the Father does with us. We are to enter back into the sacredness of the relationship, restoring trust and love.

Easy? No. Simple? Yes. Been abandoned, betrayed, lied about, or “UnFriended”? What to do? Do nothing. Bless them, speak truth with grace, live (as far as depends on you) in peace with the other, and continue to treat them sacredly as though they had never tried to wound or do you ill. As we continue to provide a conduit for grace to reach through us to them, it is to be hoped that sacredness, peace, joy, and light will restore love and light into whatever shadows and dark corners still try to impede grace in sacred spaces of relationship!

We thus honor Him, and we thus know peace.

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2016 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Crucifixion – Abandoned? Betrayed?

crucifixionImagine how massive, how incredible, how unimaginable the change in Creation… that happened in the HOURS of man’s fall in the Garden.

We do not know what time Eve and Adam betrayed reality by tearing its fabric, opening the veil between evil and consciousness by eating fruit of a tree for which they were not yet prepared or authorized. But we know that they hid from the Lord as He sought them “in the cool of the day”.

The Lord confronted them, offered them the opportunity to trust Him with the truth (which they sidestepped), and sadly had to rescue them by protecting them from what was now tremendous danger to them, the Tree of Life. It only took a matter of hours, for Creation to be torn asunder. The Perfection of Creation was ripped from God’s plan, by the sin of Adam. In Adam, all men fell. From this perfect place, this perfect time, this perfect life… came forth death and utter corruption.

Fast Forward… who knows how many years…

Again, Creation Itself trembles on a brink of unthinkable, unspeakable, inexpressible change. God Himself has entered the full frailty of humanity. He has lived a mortal life. He has walked in perfect harmony of God’s will. And the world, the fallen world, this broken world, all the corruption of all of time, is now come together to focus on Him. The Darkness of all of Time has come to this point… to find Jesus… to focus on Jesus… to crush Jesus… to kill Jesus. All the corruption, all the sin, all the darkness and shadow that crept into reality through the rent fabric of the Garden… Now all of that takes aim at Jesus, through the crosshairs of the Crucifixion. The Redemption of Creation was restored through the sacrifice of Christ. In Jesus Creation was restored.

So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.[Romans 5:18-19]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

How… how simply Incredible… is all of this? Don Merriitt is going through a wonderful review of the Book of Hebrews right now at The Life Project, and there you see this incredible explanation of mechanics of redemption through faith, connecting the dots between Jesus and fulfillment of Old Testament Law and worship practices. Who can follow all of that, really? Not I. Definitely “above my pay grade” stuff. God engineered redemption with such care and crafting that vast portions of it are simply mystery to me. I can embrace the truth of them, but not comprehend the means. There is only faith for all that.

But through the one… Adam… all fell. Through the One… Jesus… all is made whole. And in all of that, that tremendous realignment of Creation itself… Jesus did that… Alone.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This year, as the tremendous grief of Good Friday does indeed wash over me, as often in years past… This year… I was struck with a different thought than ever before. I have often been struck by the “aloneness” of the Passion and Redemption before, yes. Judas abandoned the fellowship of Disciples, yes. Jesus begs the Father to take His cup away, yes. The disciples there sleep as Jesus prays, rather than standing an hour of vigil, yes. Peter, one of Jesus’ best friends denies Him, yes. All desert Him at His trial and on the way to the Cross, but for some women who stay with Him, yes. At the very foot of the Cross itself, there is only young John and His mother, standing loyally by. All the rest have fled, yes. And then there is that final moment, the separation that tears the Veil asunder, when Jesus cries out, “Lord, Lord, why have You forsaken Me!”

Year by year, all of these alone-nesses, all of these separations, all have focused my attention across time.

But this year, it was very different. This year, all I could sense and feel was Jesus’ being torn away from the Father. And all I could think was to wonder, “What did He FEEL as it happened?” I mean, think of it, never before in the history of the universe, had Jesus ever been ALONE… apart from the Father.

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I found myself wondering, as Jesus approached these moments through this week, KNOWING what was going to happen and what He needed to do… when you reflect on His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, that the Father spare Him this…

Did Jesus feel abandoned?

In that He experienced all that we do, short of sin… how did He feel as the first moment of Aloneness in the history of time… approached? We see David feel this from time to time. We see Job, the Disciples, countless others throughout the Bible. I have felt abandoned by friends… haven’t you? I know no pain greater than to be in a time of great trial, say, like Jesus, approaching death, and have a beloved friend or family member abandon one, go silent, ignore you. Can you imagine that? Now can you imagine such a thing between Jesus and the Father? Inconceivable, isn’t it?

Jesus declares that He feels “forsaken”. He was utterly desolate and alone. He had, over His time on the Cross, BECOME sin. All sin for all time. And for the first and only moment in all of time, He could not feel the presence of His (Our) Father. How lonely would that be? How abandoned?

I have to wonder, did He feel “betrayed”?

He shared all of our feelings. Would we feel abandoned and betrayed? Did He?

What a depressing prospect, eh? What a hopeless and sad story this is, isn’t it?

But it ISN’T! This, this Passion, Crucifixion, to be followed by Resurrection and Pentecost… is the pinnacle of the GOOD NEWS! So it is very important, even in the depths of the sadness of the Cross, to realize where Light lies in the heart of such darkness.

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As we ponder just how alone Jesus was through our salvation, we are struck with the pain of that. Can there be anything so painful, so deeply wounding, as the realization that, especially as one approaches death, a friend, friends, or family that have sworn to be with you, stay with you, walk with you, and treasure you… no longer can be found? That they abandon you? Do we feel betrayed by that?

And, if that is the case… if Jesus felt not only that sadness and loneliness of being abandoned, but even the pain of betrayal as well… how did He handle it? What did it take, what WOULD it take, simply to walk on through the experience, through the pain, through the abandonment, through the betrayal?

I can tell you what it took… what it takes… faith… and love.

And that is the Good News here. Jesus experienced something absolutely unique in all of His lifetime in those hours. He experienced what leads people to death at their own hands every day. Abandonment, betrayal, and nearly total isolation. Only one disciple, some women, and His mom showed the courage not to flee. Only they could bear the pain to watch Him die, or dare the risk not to run and hide from Him.

Jesus always felt the love. Supremely, He felt the love from the Cross. As the multitudes looked upon Him, vilified Him, spat at Him, threw garbage at Him as slowly he bled and suffocated on a garbage heap… Jesus said only one thing over them to the Father. He begged that the Father would forgive them.

And, as His life ebbed from Him drop by drop and breath by breath, as He BECAME all sin for all time… As thus He allowed death to creep into Him, sin by sin over three hours… He was transformed from Life to death, so necrotic of spirit that for the first time in the history of time, He was so “dead” He could not feel the Father’s presence and love. In His anguish He cries out for the Father’s presence, but there seems to be no response. How bitter is that? How sour and galling?

So what does He do?

He goes on.

He can’t hear comfort. He can’t feel comfort. He can’t see relief or comfort. But He knows who He is, and where He is, and what He is to do. So, in faith alone, and fully in love, He goes on and surrenders to the horror that is happening. Having BECOME very sin itself, He thirsts, He drinks, and He dies.

And… thus… He WINS! He CONQUERS!

He, God, Son of God, had to be brought to the very brink of will and faith itself, and, fueled by love alone, He had to step over the edge. And He did.

THIS is why we can experience faith at all. This is why we can experience love, trust, and compassion. This is why the Garden, its separation, its boundaries, its lies and illusions wafted in vapors of guilt and shame by the serpent who engineered the Fall… this is why none of that can bind us any longer.

Jesus freed us from all that, simply by experiencing the very depths of abandonment, betrayal, loneliness, and loss… and yet giving Himself over utterly in faith, and trust, and love. He walked on through His duty as if He had all the armies of encouragement, friends, family, servants, walking alongside Him. He carried on as if He were Moses with Joshua’s supporting hands for His tired arms.

Jesus treated those who abandoned Him, who claimed to have treasured Him, who turned away from Him as He approached death… as if none of that happened. He looked upon his betrayers and abandoners, loved them anyway, prayed for them, and gave up His life for them. Just as we are to do to love as He loves, without regard for their words or their silences. He simply walked on in His love for them, for the Father, for us… as though it were any other day. He “betrayed betrayal” by simply giving it no traction and loving on through the pain of seeing those He loved and trusted reject and abandon Him.

Here is tremendous power. Here is the combination of faith and love. Here is the truth that changes hearts, changes lives, and… this day… changed the universe itself.

And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” [Matthew 26:39]

Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.[John 19:30]

How do we win, how do we triumph in the joy that is Christ’s life, here and now, as we deal with the pain of this world? We drink the vinegar and absorb all that pain in faith and love. We refrain from using any of our resources, our swords, our words, our angels, to defend ourselves or set things right. We trust the Father, we declare our efforts finished, and we exhale.

Next… we will see about the Father’s response to such faith, trust, love…

Stay tuned…

 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 19, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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